First Cuckoo and Weather in Southwest France March 2014

Cherry blossom, which has been abundant this year
Cherry blossom, which has been abundant this year

Today we heard a cuckoo for the first time this year. It’s late: normally we hear one on 29th March +/- three days. And it’s a full week after some friends who live 15 km south of us told us they had heard one. Mind you, it’s been so windy this week that we might not have heard it even if it did arrive earlier.

March came in like a lamb and went out like a lion. Is there an equivalent phrase in French? I couldn’t find one but would be pleased to know if there is. After a gloomy and very wet, but not cold, winter we were blessed with sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures. This was how March used to be when we first moved here almost 17 years ago.

The last few days of March were very windy, though. A vent d’autan, the violent wind that comes up from the south, blew for several days and deposited dust picked up from the Sahara all over our cars and the swimming pool cover. It sticks like cement, too. Once the autan dies down, it’s a signal for the rain to begin. This torpedoed the plan to spend today working at la chapelle de Teysseroles, which we are helping to restore.

Onto the figures for March:

Weather assessment for March 2014

A quick reminder of our subjective weather assessment: we assign each day a plus if it’s fine, a minus if it’s bad and a zero if it’s indifferent or we can’t decide. In March we recorded:

Pluses – 15
Zeros – 8
Minuses – 8

The graph shows the percentage of plus days each March for the past 16 years (the line is the trend).

Proportion of pluses March 2014
Proportion of pluses March 2014

Despite the good weather, this was an average March. We have had 6 better, 8 worse and 1 the same. The fact that it sticks in our memories as a good one shows how rotten the winter weather was.


Our rainfall stats go back to August 2004. March is traditionally a dry month and we had 64 mm of rain against an average of 74.6 mm. It rained on 7 days compared to the average of 11. Nonetheless, the total for the year to date is 300 mm and the average is 222.9 mm. So we have had our fair share of rain.

Rainfall 2014 to date
Rainfall 2014 to date

Frost nights

This winter was exceptionally mild. This is just as well. If all the rain had fallen as snow, we would have had to be dug out.

We had 4 frost nights in March, bringing the total for 2014 to date to 9 and for the winter as a whole to 26 frost nights. This was not the least frosty winter we’ve had. The prize goes to 2001 – 17 frost nights.

Now for a dicton (proverb), which in France are numerous. It’s not good news:

Si les quatre premiers jours d’avril sont venteux il y en aura pour quarante jours. If the first four days of April are windy, it will stay like that for 40 days.

I hope not. I loathe the wind.

You might also like:

O Wild (South) Wind – or le Vent d’Autan
Seven signs of spring in SW France
The first cuckoo

Copyright © 2014 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved


  1. Just remember, Vanessa, ‘au mois d’avril, ne te decouvre pas d’un fil…’ ! Sorry no accents on my ipad. I always found that a rather silly proverb…once the good weather starts why stay all wrapped up?


    • I suppose because it can be very changeable. Yesterday, for example, we had 26C – today it’s unlikely to go above 14C and we’ll probably light a fire this evening. Very capricious the weather here in April.


  2. Seems I need to move to southwest France then! I envy your winter weather from this past winter. It snowed just as recently as last Monday in the morning!! Not cold enough for it to stick and we had a beautiful afternoon but it was almost like it was an early April Fool’s Day joke (since it was March 31st).


    • I sympathise. We have had a very mild winter – but we paid for it in rain. Now we are basking in lovely sunshine and summery temperatures. May it last.


  3. Very interesting, as usual:) No cuckoo here yet in Tuscany, which had escaped me and so they are very late here too … I wonder what’s going on? Packing up for the Aveyron at this minute and hoping that the wind dies down too; it’s what I didn’t like about Provence … terrible wind!


    • This must be late for the cuckoo in Tuscany. Maybe it doesn’t like the weather. The weather is forecast to be warm and sunny here next week until Friday (rain again). We had several days of strong winds of varying intensity this week. The weekend was awful. Hopefully it has blown itself out.


  4. Argh….I hate the wind, too! But at least I have the cuckoo to look forward to. He should be singing here soon!


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